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Attacks in brit airports mild tactics { July 2 2007 }

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July 2, 2007
Britain Arrests 3 More Suspects in Car Bomb Plot

LONDON, July 2 — The British police investigating the attempted car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow arrested three more suspects on Monday, bringing the number of people held so far in the case to eight, including medical doctors from Jordan and Iraq.

The police said one of the three people arrested Monday had been seized in an unspecified foreign country, while the two others had been detained at a residential facility attached to the Princess Alexandra Hospital close to Glasgow.

There were reports in Scotland that the police had been on the trail of two of the attackers on Saturday morning before a Jeep Cherokee rammed into the entrance doors of Glasgow Airport later in the day and burst into flames. Investigators had used both cellphone records and highly sophisticated closed-circuit television on Britain’s highways to trace the men in the Jeep, according to several accounts.

Law enforcement officials in the United States and Britain insisted that intelligence agencies investigating the attempted car bomb attacks had discovered no direct link to Al Qaeda so far.

With Britain’s terrorism threat assessment at its highest level of critical, meaning that another attack appears imminent, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Sunday that “the nature of the threat that we are dealing with is Al Qaeda and people who are related to Al Qaeda.”

But, a British security official, who spoke in return for anonymity under government rules, said that Mr. Brown, in office for only days, was “describing the ideology” of Islamic fundamentalism and that it was “far too early” to speak of a direct link to terror training camps outside Britain or Al Qaeda members.

A senior Western law enforcement official, who spoke in return for anonymity, said there was “no indication of any outside direction” and “no connection with the United States whatsoever.”

“Nothing from phone contacts, nor any other way,” the official said. “There has never been any connection of any kind in the U.S.”

The apparent plot to detonate cars filled with gasoline and gas canisters seemed markedly different from some recent terrorism efforts in Britain — notably the July 7, 2005, suicide bombing attacks in London — drawing on disaffected young British Muslims often of Pakistani descent.

British news reports, relatives and a person close to the investigation identified two of the detained people as medical doctors — Mohammed Asha, from Jordan, and Bilal Abdullah from Iraq.

Dr Asha, 26, was arrested late Saturday when police officers in unmarked cars boxed in his car on the M6 highway in northwestern England and forced it to a halt. He was accompanied by a 27-year-old woman whose suspected link to the attempted car bombings is unclear. Contrary to earlier news reports identifying him as an Iranian Kurd, Dr. Asha was said by a Jordanian official to be a Jordanian of Palestinian descent.

Some news reports said Dr. Abdullah was suspected of being one of two men who tried to ram the Jeep Cherokee into the entrance of Glasgow Airport on Saturday afternoon. British medical records said Dr. Abdullah qualified in Baghdad in 2004 and had been licensed to practice in British hospitals as a doctor under supervision since August, 2006.

The attack in Glasgow followed the discovery of two cars filled with gasoline, gas canisters and nails in London on Friday and the police have linked the two episodes in London and Glasgow. Officials declined to say whether the same people were suspected of carrying out both attacks.

A senior Western law enforcement official, who spoke in return for anonymity, said British investigators were greatly helped by closed-circuit television cameras on Britain’s highways, which pick up details of every license plate.

The devices are highly computerized, the official said. As soon as the police noted the license plate numbers from the cars in Central London and from the car that crashed in Glasgow, computers quickly traced the cars’ movements over the past several days.

In Glasgow, moreover, there were reports on Monday that call records of a cellphone found in one of the abandoned Mercedes sedans in London had led investigators to a house near Glasgow used by at least one of the suspects. The discovery was made before the attack when it was not known whether a further assault was planned.

Daniel Gardiner, who owns the rental agency that leased the house, said the police had contacted his agency early Saturday to ask about two car bombs that were discovered Friday in London. The attack on Glasgow airport took place at around 3.15 p.m. local time on Saturday.

In an interview, Mr. Gardiner said the police had contacted a colleague because his agency’s phone number had appeared on one of the cellphones found inside the cars.

Mr. Gardiner said he was unable to provide much help to the police because he was unable to recall when or why his agency had called the number. And he said his office had no record of such a call.

After the attack on the Glasgow Airport, Mr. Gardiner said, the police contacted him again, this time asking if he had done business with any of the people they had in custody. Mr. Gardiner said he confirmed having rented a house at 6 Neuk Crescent in the village of Houston to one of the suspects.

The leasing agent declined to identify his former client. He would only say that the suspect had passed a rigorous credit check.
Reporting was contributed by Eric Pfanner from London, Victoria Burnett and Ginger Thompson from Glasgow, Hassan Sattah in Amman, Jordan, and Serge Kovaleski from Newcastle-under-Lyme, Scotland.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Attacks in brit airports mild tactics { July 2 2007 }
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